Victory Spinach

[image: baked spinach]
[image: baked spinach]

This past weekend, I basically begged an invitation from Lydia for something, ANYTHING, to keep my mind off tomorrow’s election. She very kindly invited me over for dinner on Sunday. She and her husband were making miso-marinated flat iron steak, so she asked me to bring a side. I decided on spinach, because creamed spinach is one of the classic sides at old school steakhouses. I didn’t end up using a cream-based recipe, but this was a really pleasant surprise. Using frozen spinach made it much easier. I squished the defrosted spinach in a colander using my hands to get out all the liquid. Wrapping it all in a black kitchen towel and wringing it out would also work (my dad’s recommendation) (otherwise you’ll dye the towel green).

There’s no reason behind the recipe name. I’m just hopeful for tomorrow.

GO VOTE!

2 lbs frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
4 Tbsp butter, divided (2+1+1)
1 1/2 Tbsp AP flour
1/2 tsp table salt
pepper, to taste
2/3 cup stock
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp assorted chopped herbs (thyme, basil, oregano, parsley—whatever’s lying around) or 1/2 tsp dried Italian herb mix

Butter a 9×9 baking dish (or use nonstick spray) and heat the oven to 375.

In a large saucepan or pot, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. When foaming, add spinach. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the residual moisture from the spinach has evaporated. You can tell when this happens by when the spinach starts to stick (if you’re using not a nonstick pan) or by the sound of the sizzle—it will start to sound noticeably different.

Sprinkle the flour on top and turn the heat to low. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly (in a trickle) stir in the stock. Once added, simmer for 1 minute and stir in an additional 1 Tbsp of butter. If you think the mixture seems too thick, add up to an additional 1/3 cup stock. Stir in salt and add pepper to taste (I put in like 8 grinds).

Transfer the spinach from the pan to the baking dish. Carefully mix in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. In the now-empty pan, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Add the panko breadcrumbs and herbs. Stir until just barely toasted. Sprinkle on top of the spinach along with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 until heated through and browned on top, about 30-35 minutes.

This Tomato Is an Asshole

So I’m out in the garden today, taking a bunch of stuff apart because hi it’s November, and what do I see? What do I see on a tomato plant that has done nothing, NOTHING since I planted it back in April???

[image: this is the worst tomato]
[image: this is the worst tomato]

YOU WAITED UNTIL NOVEMBER TO START PRODUCING FRUIT?!

Black From Tula is one of the largest black tomatoes at 4 to 5″ in diameter and weighing up to 12 ounces. The flattened fruit has a rich, salty, smoky flavor. This rare Russian heirloom sets fruit in hot weather.

YOU LIE, PRODUCT DESCRIPTION. YOU LIE.

oh I am so pissed off at this goddamn tomato

Halloween as a Gorilla Princess

[image: halloween 1984-ish]
[image: halloween 1985-ish]

I hope everyone had a nice Halloween. As I mentioned earlier, I did not dress up this year, so here is a throwback to my 1980s childhood. My brother, on the right, made a stellar cardboard robot. I was just planning on being a generic princess (dig that tin foil crown!), but at some point my dad picked up a gorilla mask and I latched onto it. Gorilla Princess was born.

We lived in Massachusetts at the time, so Halloween night was COLD. I’m probably wearing snowpants under that dress, and my brother’s wearing a winter coat and giant mittens. A costume that involved some level of head covering was a good idea, so the mask helped to keep me warm. But what I had not considered was that it would severely impede my ability to eat candy along our route. I had to make the choice: awesome mask or candy. In a move that eventually paralleled my cosplaying attitude, I chose to make the candy sacrifice rather than jeopardize The Look.

This hot dog is over Halloween. #OFFICIALLY

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

2016 was a quieter Halloween. Last night I went over to the Corgi Sisters’ house and helped hand out candy to the legions of trick-or-treaters who came by. (I think there may have been a dozen in all.) Their poor dog was Seriously Not Into It. But she looked cute!

Fudgey Brownies

[image: brownie]
[image: brownie]

These are very sweet and very fudgey. Also they make kind of a hell of a mess. I don’t know if the original writer (I think this was from the Chicago Tribune, but I just have a really old photocopy a family friend passed along) thought that pulsing chocolate chips and sugar in a food processor would remain entirely contained, because a fine mist of choco-sugar coated the countertop after I was finished.

Nonstick spray
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup butter (room temperature)
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 rounded tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnut pieces, toasted
4 oz. white chocolate chips

Prepare a 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray and turn the oven to 325.

Place the semisweet chocolate chips and sugar in a food processor and pulse 8-10 times to combine, then turn on and keep running until the chocolate is the same consistency as the sugar (about 30 seconds).

Add the butter, eggs, and vanilla to the food processor. Mix for a minute, scraping down sides as necessary. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix to combine.

Add the walnuts and white chocolate chips and pulse until barely incorporated (3-5 pulses).

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish. Bake until tester inserted in center comes out with moist but not wet crumbs, 45-55 minutes. Cool in the pan, then chill until firm, about 4 hours. Cut into small squares (they’re intensely chocolatey, a small amount is enough) and serve.

Lupicia Momo Oolong Super Grade

[image: bag o' tea]
[image: bag o’ tea]

Tonight I thought I’d dive into one of my favorite teas. This is Lupicia’s Momo Oolong Super Grade, which is apparently their #1 best seller. I’m hardly surprised. This tea is great. The peach flavor is pronounced, and it is sweet enough on its own to enjoy without any additional sweetening.

[stock image from lupicia's website]
[stock image from lupicia’s website]

It’s a pretty tea to just look at, with the rose petals. The leaves are tightly twisted, and when set in to steep, they expand beautifully. Depending on my tea mood, I might use teabags instead of my teapot. But one tea I would never use the bags for is the Momo Oolong. The leaves need the space. They’re pretty large once fully expanded.

[image: pot o'tea]
[image: pot o’tea]

This is kind of a splurgey tea. It’s $13 for a 50 gram bag of leaves (don’t bother with the bagged version), but it is definitely worth it. You can get more than one steep out of the leaves per drinking session. I usually go for two or three pots with the same spoonful of leaves.

It’s a nice late afternoon or evening tea, since oolong has a lower caffeine amount than black tea. It’s not entirely absent though, so maybe stick to a morning brew if you’re particularly sensitive.

And as for food options, my old roommate Zed used to occasionally enjoy the spent tea leaves with rice. Like this but more basic.

My Shameful Lack of Sewing in 2016

Halloween is in two days, and I’m not dressing up. Usually my excuse is “I’m a cosplayer, I do enough with costumes the rest of the year!” but this year that’s not true. I’m just lazy.

I made one costume earlier this year (Madoka Kaname from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which I just realized I haven’t added to my cosplay page at ACP yet) and wore one other (Athena Cykes from Ace Attorney, which I made in 2014—it’s remarkable I still can squeeze into it). I didn’t end up going to San Diego Comic-Con this year, which cut my cosplaying opportunities in half. Hopefully I’ll do better next year. We’ve got some things in the early planning stages…

Besides that one costume, my sewing adventurers this year have been mainly in the field of fixing holes and shortening pants. But I do still enjoy sewing! Even though we delayed the group by a year, Madoka’s costume took a lot out of me. And it’s not at 100% completion yet! There are wings and more gewgaws to add. Assuming I ever get it done, it’ll be completely ridiculous. And quite possibly impossible to wear and/or move around in.

Shrubs

Made a nectarine-peach shrub for an upcoming Ladies' Afternoon with @trufflewantssnacks. SO PINK.

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

Shrubs were a passing fancy of mine this summer. Shrubs are an old-style drink mixer, made with fruit and sugar and vinegar. This particular one I made with nectarines and peaches. I can’t remember how we mixed it, maybe with gin? Or some kind of sparkling wine? Bitters were involved, I think.

And I don’t remember the proportions I used in the shrub, so no recipe. But ooh, this cranberry-black pepper shrub looks like it might be nice for the holidays.

Drinkin’ Wine

When I start a glass of wine, I see it through to the end. There was a house wine we had in Cosenza, Italy, that seriously tasted like gasoline. I finished it. We were given some apertif in Prague that was like drinking a pine tree. I took the shot. Tonight, I had a wine I could not drink.

I was making my way through a flight of Italian white wines.

Drinking my new favorite from @roccafiore!

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

Not this one, unfortunately. (This is my current favorite Italian white wine. It’s amazing. I will never be able to buy it in the U.S.)

Actually, the flight overall was sort of a failure as far as my palate went.

2015 Montetondo Garganega Frizzante (Verona): this was like soda, it’d be refreshing on a hot summer day, but there wasn’t a lot of there there
2015 de Tarczal Pinot Bianco (Trentino): this one sucked all the moisture out of my mouth
2009 Vigna del Malina Pinot Grigio (Venezia Giulia): CHRIST THIS WAS AWFUL. I took a sip, said “GAH,” and then took a second sip because I’m an optimist but NOPE. I was like “can you please pour this out and get me a fresh glass and also some water and maybe you should check if this wine has turned or something because seriously it is FOUL”
2015 Poggio al Tesoro ‘Solosole’ Vermentino (Toscana): this could have been fine, but by this point my ability to taste things was totally shot

Afterwards I was talking with some of the patrons and staff, and I mentioned I hadn’t really been feeling my flight, so they opened up a bottle of something much, much nicer and gave me a glass for free. I guess the half hour and two or three more glasses of water had helped reset my tongue, because this was nice and honey and acid and just such a relief after that Pinot Grigio. Big ups to the bartender for good customer service.

much nicer wine
much nicer wine

So not my most successful night at the wine bar. Didn’t find any new must-haves, but I had a pleasant evening talking to folks and (eventually) drinking a nice glass.

Hollow Heart Vegetable

I am reading up on ong choy, or “hollow heart vegetable.” I went out to a Malaysian restaurant with Lydia and her husband tonight. I have leftovers of these greens which I’m planning to eat tomorrow for breakfast with a fried egg on top. I appreciate the usefulness of a “Class A Noxious Weed” as a food product. Waste not want not!

(I wonder if single people eat this dish on Valentine’s Day. If we don’t, I think we should.)

Future Garden (aka SEEDS!)

Check out what I'll be killing next! #gardening #seeds #hudsonvalleyseedlibrary

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

A few months ago, an internet friend I like to refer to as the New Jersey Tomato Girl alerted me to a seed sale at the Hudson Valley Seed Library. I bought the six packets you see up there, and then I told Lydia about it. She bought… well, let’s just say a bunch more. So then we had a cocktail evening and divvied up our bounties. I now have way, way more seeds than space, which is why I’m thinking about submitting an application to join the community garden in my town for next year.

TOMATOES
Paul Robeson
Ping Pong
Blush
Cosmonaut Volkov
Fox Cherry
Prudens Purple
Japanese Black Trifele
Goldie
Cherokee Purple
Black Cherry (saved from this year)
Sunset Falls (saved from this year)
some green and red striped tomato we got at the farmer’s market and I saved some seeds from because they were good

PEPPERS
Hinkelhatz Hot (New Jersey Tomato Girl says these are fabulous)
Doe Hill
Lilac Bell (saved from this year)

RADISHES
Cherry Bell
Easter Egg (so cute!)
French Breakfast

OTHER
National Pickling Cucumber (I have already had delicious pickle success with these!)
Harris Model Parsnip
Scarlet Ohno Revival Turnip
Field Peas
Garlic Chives
Butternut Squash (I saved a few of these the last time I roasted the seeds—no they’re not pumpkin seeds but it’s basically the same)

Seriously, where am I going to put all of these? I mean, I’m thinking about how much space my TWO cucumber plants have taken.

It is pretty glorious to imagine all those tomatoes, though.